Three Ways to Teach with POINT


Faculty may use POINT to:

Help students understand writing assignments

Discuss examples

Jumpstart discussion of course readings


Help students understand writing assignments

When major papers are first introduced, encourage careful assignment review 

Students often do not look closely at their assignments until they begin writing. If they wait too long, they have little time to ask clarification questions or catch up on any preparatory work. Here is one example of how faculty could use POINT to encourage students to think critically about their writing projects from the very beginning:

  • Introduce the major writing project in class.
  • Either during that class or as homework (e.g., discussion board), ask students to try to answer the key questions from the “Understanding Writing Assignments” handout for their major paper. See if they can answer all of them well and where they have questions. You may ask students to sum up their investigation with statements like, “This project seems similar to those I have done before because . . .” and “This project seems different than others I have done before because”
  • Review these answers together in class.

Discuss Examples 

Using POINT to encourage in-depth analysis of samples

POINT can help students pay attention to key aspects of how writers put texts together, which can be especially helpful when learning a new genre or understanding what principles to imitate from examples.

When students are learning a new genre—or when they are trying to understand See page 2 of the “Understanding Writing Assignments” handout. Shorter versions of this heuristic also appear in the “Making a POINT” posters that will be available in many classrooms.

Whole essays vs. short snippets

Faculty often hesitate to provide examples lest students follow the template too closely or try to repeat the sample writer’s argument. In many cases though, examples can help students understand the kind of thinking the course requires. Examples can include:

  • previous student papers (usually, on a different topic),
  • published examples of the genre,
  • course readings that students should emulate,
  • snippets from any of these.

Faculty need not provide entire essays if they are concerned about slavish imitation. Instead, it may be possible to snippets that demonstrate success with very specific parts of the paper, such as with an introduction or thesis, a sample analytical paragraph, a sample transition, etc. These examples can be delivered live during lectures, added to short class discussion activities, put on videos, added to handouts, or posted on discussion board assignments.

Most course readings do not closely parallel the kind of writing students should create. However, POINT is still a useful tool for discussing these regular course examples, not just examples. That is because the framework allows students to investigate a text’s design and writing choices.

Jumpstart class discussion of course readings

When planning to discuss a reading as a class, POINT may be a useful discussion starter—especially when it breaking down an argument or considering how well writers accomplished their goals.

Faculty can ask students to briefly consider some key questions from POINT related to the reading. This could appear in several forms:

  • short group discussions/breakout groups in class,
  • brief in-class writing,
  • short homework assignments due before class, or
  • Socratic questions during class discussion.

In these cases, POINT can be a simple method for asking what the writer may be trying to accomplish and how.

Preliminary discussion activities like this be helpful with many texts, and they are strong preparation for for writing analytically about readings, such as in a precis or review.